by Ghada Ramahi (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 34, No. 6, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1426)
In its attempt to reconstruct humanity, the contemporary state system has given itself the authority to delegate rights to inhabitants of the earth. In the process, human rights have been reconstituted, modified, invented and allocated unjustly. The result is a term which is vague, elastic and quite subjective. Some rights are luxurious and frivolous while others are instinctive and essential for survival. One person's right might be to get freshly cut flowers delivered every morning to decorate the table while having breakfast on the balcony of an exclusive apartment on the 39th floor of a high-rise overlooking the skyline of the city; another's right might be limited to securing clean running water and a sanitized sewage system. One person's right might be to renew the car every year, whereas another person's right might be to simply exist.
Not only are reconstituted rights relative, but they are also manipulated and politically designed, depending on ethnicity, nativity, race, sex, religion, language, natural resources and other classifications that fit the grand chessboard of the contemporary powers. So the issue is what constitutes a right and who has the authority to define it and give it.
As a subsidiary to the contemporary state system, the United Nations has become the arbiter of human rights. In fact, it presided over the production of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, a minor problem emerged. The UN has never been an objective, impartial arbiter. A stark example is Resolution 194, Article 11, which is supposedly the reference for "the [Palestinians'] right to return". According to Answer.com, "the resolution [actually only Article 11] has been increasingly quoted by the Arabs, who have interpreted it as a ‘right of return' of the Palestinian refugees." So what is it about this article that is open to divergent interpretations?
The paragraph is worded ambiguously regarding who precisely has the "right to return", whereas the second stipulation specifies precisely who should be repatriated, resettled and compensated: the Palestinians. Therefore, the vague first stipulation was not meant for the Palestinian refugees, rather for the Jews who should have the "right to return", since they had been refugees in diasporas for the past two thousand years. This means that someone who had never belonged to the land of Palestine, nor lived there, was considered a refugee and awarded the "right to return", whereas Palestinians who were uprooted from their homeland were, or actually are still, offered other alternatives but not that of return.
With this insight, one can understand why the state of Israel first welcomed UN Resolution 194, article 11, and later continued to ignore it. Furthermore, UN resolutions are not obligations, rather recommendation AND are always open to reinterpretations to the disadvantage of those who are on the receiving end. Having said this, let's look at UN Resolution 194, Article 11:
The General Assembly, Having considered further the situation in Palestine, [Articles 1 to 10 are listed]
11. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations.
This past April, while at home in my comfortable living room, I sat watching a segment of the evening news reporting on Hamas commemorating the first anniversary of the martyrdom of Shaikh Ahmad Yaseen and Dr. Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi. On the stage and behind the speakers, huge pictures of the martyred Hamas leaders hung. I counted them. They were ten: starting with Yahya ‘Ayyash all the way to Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi. For few moments, my thoughts transcended my identity as a Palestinian, and I found myself asking in pure abstraction: what made these men, and others like them, with their caliber of education and other achievements, choose this path for their lives? Why didn't they choose to get good jobs with their highly esteemed degrees? Why not brag about their career accomplishments and investment portfolios, like others with similar qualifications? Why didn't they choose to sit at the negotiating seat and shake hands like other politicians? What distinguished them from other men? What made them decide to live underground, unable to walk openly on a street? These men were not just teenagers whom some "fanatic leader had brainwashed" into "enlisting in a radical movement", as a western analyst once roared.
No matter on which side of the "wall" one might sit (and here I mean The WALL), and regardless of how one might view Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, no one can deny the presence and charisma of these men. Their accomplishments have an immense impact on both sides of the "wall". They are major players and decisive factors in world politics. Classifying them as terrorist groups does not make them go away; nor does assassinating their leaders weaken them. In the case of Hizbullah, they managed successfully to force the Israelis out of almost all of southern Lebanon. Recently, both Hamas and Hizbullah have "democratically" won major elections. So we must try, objectively if humanly possible, to fathom the driving force behind such groups.
We all remember how we felt when another kid snatched our toy and wouldn't give it back. As very little ones, we didn't know or understand why we would get really upset and cry … instinctively we knew that something was wrong, and that what belonged to us was taken away, it had been usurped. "Someone took something that belongs to me". And the other kid was unjust and was not supposed to do that to me. To protest and to get our toy back, we did all we could, expressing ourselves in anger, cried very loudly, kicked and did not accept any other toy in replacement. When we were forced to accept a replacement, we were never satisfied and kept our eyes fixed on what had been taken away from us, and went after it when the first chance presented itself. Perhaps this was our first experience of injustice and resistance.
Now, as an adult, I know that another person came, by force expelled me from my home and claimed it for his, took my trees, my garden, my farm, my land: took my whole country and claimed it for his. He denies my identity and does not want me to even exist. When I react to these injustices, he classifies me according to his political agenda and gains. Using his own constructed world institutions, he tries to crush me by all possible means.
The feeling that we did not understand as children but acted upon is called one's right…it is an instinctive feeling that comes with the human make-up; it is part of the hardware, as it were. Nobody gave it to us; we were born with it: it runs with our blood.
Islamically speaking, in Arabic a very specific word is used to mean Right. It is the word haqq, with hoqooqfor plural. Strictly, the word haqq means only a ‘just Right'. This is so because the word haqq as right is derived from the Absolute Haqq, Allah the Almighty (swt) Himself. The Absolute Haqq is also the root of the word haqeeqah, which means the Absolute Truth. Al-Haqq is one of the Ninety-Nine Divine Attributes. So one's haqq implies a divinely bestowed "just right". Unfortunately, lately in the Arab world the words haqqand right have been confused and used interchangeably, resulting in further alienation and massive confusion. Not every right is a haqq, but every haqq is right and just. No particular language is necessary to know one's haqq, but plenty of it is needed to know one's rights. No haqq can be understood mechanistically, nor does it follow science, technology, economy growth or tourism. No haqq can be affected by any man-made law or regulation, nor crushed by any military supremacy. No power can deny one's haqq, though it can deny one's rights. A world agency might decide some rights in favor of one over another, but it cannot make these rights just. Those who are unjustly awarded some rights at the expense of others will always know that they have cheated. The haqq to resist oppression and exploitation defies negotiations, road maps and high concrete walls. The haqq to resist is the driving force behind thePalestinian uprising, behind Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and behind the strength of Hizbullah. It was the power that made the quadriplegic Shaikh Ahmad Yaseen resist, and it is what makes unarmed Palestinian youths fight the Mercava with stones. It is what keeps Palestinian prisoners standing tall.
Having the haqq to resist is to object actively to something that is unjustly forced upon you. It is to strive against something bad that is harming you, even when the superpowers of the world deny it. It is to remain firm against the action and effect of occupation and to withstand the aggression imposed on every aspect of your livelihood. And because haqq is the essence of resistance, it is only the Almighty Absolute Haqq that can instill in our psyche the notion of instinctive rights, so that when one has the haqq to resist, one is delegated this right by the Almighty Allah (swt).